Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 14, 2017)
No one ever tried to make it big as a Rich Little impersonator. That’s because there’s no point in imitating an imitator - what would you do, pretend to be someone who pretends to be Richard Nixon?
With that in mind, I thought Scary Movie brought us a redundant affair. After a mystery man murders high school student Drew (Carmen Electra), Cindy (Anna Faris) and her friends deal with an increasing body count as they try to find the killer.
Scary Movie parodies a number of then-recent horror films but it mainly focuses upon Scream. In fact, although we get clear references to other pictures like The Matrix and I Know What You Did Last Summer appear, Scary really offers little more than an extended gag based on the original Scream. Scary directly lifts some scenes right from that 1996 effort, with just small twists to attempt comedy.
The problem with this stems from the fact that Scream itself was not a straightforward horror film, one that became distinct due to the manner in which it mocked the genre’s conventions. Scream worked well enough as a thriller to keep it from being a true parody, but it walked a fine line, and its hip, self-mocking tone made it unique.
Until eight million imitators came along, of course. Those copy-cats made the prospect of a Scream parody even less sensible, but that didn’t stop the Wayans brothers - represented here by Keenan Ivory as director and brothers Shawn and Marlon as writers/actors - from this attempt.
Up front, I suppose I must acknowledge that I don’t much care for parodies. In a way, this seems ironic since SCTV remains one of my three all-time favorite TV shows.
However, though that program made parody a core of its content, it worked mainly due to the splendid characterizations from the cast. The material itself wasn’t always that great, but the execution was spectacular.
That’s why I haven’t liked many other parodies. From the songs of Weird Al to movies like Airplane! and The Kentucky Fried Movie, I usually find these take-offs to provide lazy and ineffectual comedy.
However, those works seem like genius compared to the dreck passed off as humor during Scary Movie. The fact this stinker made almost $157 million at the US box office really scares me - I guess there is a sucker born every minute.
As I already mentioned, Scary replicates the plot to Scream fairly faithfully. It goes off on a few tangents at times, but it always comes back to the well.
Since Scream itself bordered on parody, I don’t know how effective this could have been under the best of circumstances. However, the work seen here never remotely approaches “the best of circumstances”, so Scary provides nothing more than a tasteless, crude and unfunny mess.
The film uses the “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach to comedy, but despite the rapid-fire pacing of the gags, I never threatened to crack a smile, much less actually laugh. I find it amazing that Scary credits six writers - how could so many contribute so much and result in so little entertainment?
The gags fluctuate between the excessively obvious and the disgustingly lewd. In the former category are “wacky” bits like the names of some characters.
Our protagonist is Cindy Campbell: “Cindy” sounds like “Sidney” - the lead in Scream - while “Campbell” takes from the Neve Campbell, the actress who played Sidney. Instead of reporter Gale Weathers, we get reporter Gail Hailstorm. Instead of Deputy Dewey, we get Deputy Doofy. Are your sides splitting yet?
Scary also gets a lot of jollies through some tired sources, mainly anti-gay gags. Homosexual-related material pops up with ridiculous frequency during the movie, and none of it is anything less than lame and offensive.
Add to that mockery of overweight people and the intellectually disabled and you have a film that displays consistently poor taste. Scary also provides a lot of black-related humor, but I guess that’s supposed to be okay since so many of the filmmakers are African-American.
Is there anything good about Scary? Well, Shannon Elizabeth looks consistently hot, and Carmen Electra also appears sexy during her underwear romp.
Other than that, I can’t conjure a single positive aspect of Scary Movie. The film feels like it lasts much longer than its stated 88 minutes.
In fact, it seems interminable as one tacky, unfunny gag follows another until I hoped a masked maniac would slaughter me. Scary Movie stands as one of the least entertaining movies I’ve ever seen.
If you stick around through the conclusion of the end credits, you’ll get an extra “comedy” scene.
Note that the version of Scary Movie on the disc alters the theatrical version slightly. In the edition shown on movie screens, a line uttered as two characters watched Shakespeare In Love went “Brad Pitt's ex-girlfriend is a real freak. She dressed up like a man”.
This gets changed to "she's about to get it on with Shake-a-spear - he found out she's a girl." Why? Allegedly because of objections from Scary executive producer/Shakespeare producer Harvey Weinstein.
Did Gwynnie complain to him, or was this just excessive sensitivity? I have no idea, but it’s one of the odder alterations I can recall, especially since so many folks already saw the movie with the original line intact.